Into The Arms Of My Colonizer

Christopher Ulutupu


with text by Dilohana Lekamge

16 February - 9 March 2018





Christopher Ulutupu’s Into the Arms of my Coloniser is
the artist’s individual exploration of cultural hybridity and
diaspora. The video includes a myriad of different
characters: oiled-up muscle men, a lounging well-dressed
European couple, a Polynesian family, a trio of female
singers and a large white soft toy rabbit. All are placed on
a low-lit sandy scene embellished with an indoor plant
resembling a palm tree, various beach furniture, a LCD
flatscreen, and a microphone placed on a stand into which
the women sing. Each scene is introduced by a text that
alludes to the cultural betrayal that can occur when someone
of a marginalised race dates outside their racial community,
or even worse, when the person is from the race of people
who colonised their country. However, upon closer inspection
of the carefully choreographed scenes, there is more at play
than a comment on interracial dating.

When practitioners who are also cultural minorities
create it is often expected that their work reflects life in
their mother country. Unfortunately, through a Western
lens, there is an assumption that these cultures have not
developed at the same pace as the Western world. An
almost automatic response is to imagine a previously
colonised country existing in a bubble exempt from
globalisation and other markers of ‘progress’. This thought
is solidified by the circulation of racial stereotypes and
a lack of accurate representations of these cultures in
the mainstream media, perpetuating the idea that non-
Western cultures are stagnant.

It is a blatant challenge to this misconception that in
one scene three Polynesian women sing Britney Spears’
Lucky, as this early 2000s’ teen-pop classic seems out
of place on this manufactured ‘island’ setting. However,
given global distribution of Western pop culture, this, in
reality, wouldn’t be an unlikely scene. Ulutupu challenges
this misconception of an out-of-date Polynesian culture
by creating multiple scenes that are caricatures of cultural
mergence.

This work, like many in Ulutupu’s practice,
investigates the hyphen space between host and
homeland community, allowing him to explore how
these two lands have informed him as a Samoan New
Zealander, where one no more serves as an influence
than the other. Ulutupu is concerned with the inevitable
consequences of diaspora and migration, yet his
approach is to openly allow feelings of disconnect from
his homeland; he offers a different approach to the stories
of marginalised communities enabling a complexity that
many discussions of identity ignore. It is unrealistic to
believe that every migrant feels the same level of longing
for their homeland and that their place of origin offers
solace where a host country does not. For many, comfort
is found in their motherland, but for some it is more
difficult to enjoy that sense of belonging that is expected
in one place over another, especially when so much that is
familiar in fact exists in the land of the coloniser. Ulutupu
allows himself to explore his own experience of being a
colonised person living in a coloniser’s world. He refuses
to discuss what is expected of him as a person of colour
– shifting the ways in which he and others like him can be
represented in Western contexts.

–DL

Constructing the Hyphen by Christopher Ulutupu